Why does Franny regret asking Lane for his olive?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Franny and Zooey, Lane Coutell and Franny Glass are both college students. In Franny Part 1, Lane has been waiting out in the cold on the platform for Franny's train to come in. Franny puts on an excited front when she sees her boyfriend. However, her conscience chides her. She realizes with a pang that she is lying when she gushes to Lane that she missed him very much while they were apart.

Both Lane and Franny head to lunch at Sickler's, a restaurant highly favored by the intellectual fringe students at the college. While sipping on martinis, Lane regales Franny with a story about a paper he had written that earned him an A. It is obvious that he is trying to impress Franny. He uses big words like 'testicularity' and makes a point to emphasize how he 'nearly keeled over' when he saw 'this goddam 'A' on it in letters about six feet high.' Franny is not overly impressed with Lane's monologue. She accuses him of being a 'section man,' one of those graduate students who always over-intellectualizes literature and ruins the love of the subject for students like herself. Franny is not overly impressed with Lane's brand of masculinity either.

Sometimes it was hell to conceal her impatience over the male of the species' general ineptness, and Lane's in particular. It reminded her of a rainy night in New York, just after theater, when Lane, with a suspicious excess of curb-side charity, had let that really horrible man in the dinner jacket take that taxi away from him.

Franny asks Lane for his olive just at the point when Lane is expectantly waiting for Franny to show some sort of enthusiasm for his intellectual accomplishments. Instead, Franny nonchalantly asks if she can have his olive. This irritates Lane, and Franny realizes her mistake.

She knew from Lane's expression that she had asked the wrong question. What was worse, she suddenly didn't want the olive at all and wondered why she had even asked for it.

Franny doesn't really love Lane; his brand of masculinity doesn't overly excite her. At this point, her passive aggressive gesture of asking for Lane's olive is the only way she can express her disillusion with what she considers pseudo-intellectualism. Her regret stems from her inability to be fully honest with Lane. Furthermore, she knows she has hurt him at the expense of her authenticity. She is equal parts conformist and rebel, torn between hurting her boyfriend and being truly honest.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question.

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Franny and Zooey

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